By Colin MacGillivray
BROADFORD residents have thrown their support behind a petition calling for Mitchell Shire Council to rethink future plans for high-density housing in the town.
The petition protesting a draft Broadford Structure Plan had attracted more than 1500 signatures when it was submitted to council by a group of residents last week.
The petition, first reported by the Review in March, called for council to rethink plans for future high-density housing south-west of Broadford in the region of Jeffreys Lane and Mount Piper.
Jeffreys Lane resident Narelle Ayson, who helped start the petition, said the response had surpassed her initial expectations.
“The level of community support [has been awesome],” she said.
“I don’t think many people knew about it before I started the petition. You talk to people in town, on the street and they had no idea what it was about, so if nothing else it has let the community know what is going on.
“The community consultation happened during COVID, so unless you were somehow connected to the shire e-news, you probably didn’t really know about it. It wasn’t very well promoted.”
Ms Ayson said she intended to submit questions about the draft Broadford Structure Plan at the next council community questions and hearings committee to tie in with the petition’s submission.
She said the planned housing developments would fundamentally alter the nature of the town.
“To be able to walk down the street and just say hello to everyone is something you don’t get in bigger towns,” she said.
“It’s the community vibe that we want to preserve, and as soon as an influx of thousands of people comes, that’ll just go.
“I feel like this is our last chance because the new generations don’t really get it in the way that we do how important that is.
“If we don’t stand up and fight for it now, in 20 or 30 years they won’t even know what they’re fighting for.”
Broadford newsagency owner Alana Smith said she had promoted the petition through her business.
She said Broadford lacked the infrastructure necessary to support the planned residential expansion, eroding a sense of community as the population expanded.
“Nearly every person who came in the shop signed [the petition], because we live in a quiet country town that has already had a lot of development and a lot of people move here,” she said.
“Where is the infrastructure? Why aren’t local businesses being helped? We’re getting people coming into the area but they’re going elsewhere to do their shopping.
“It’s an older community and I have seen a lot of older people move away or pass away, so we’re going to get a much younger generation coming in, but I’m not seeing it in my business.”
Janis Baker said residents opposed a ‘Broadmeadows-type community with hundreds of people and traffic lights’.
She said the draft structure plan would destroy the natural beauty of the Mount Piper area.
Natalie Wilson said the planned development would compound traffic issues in the town.
“Why aren’t the council developing Seymour, which … already has all the infrastructure? If they put all this money and effort into Seymour and attracted people there and left us alone, everyone would be a lot happier,” she said.
“Why can’t there be one town that stays quiet amongst all this rubbish? Why can’t there be somewhere for people to come who want this? Why do they have to keep driving another two hours up the road because they keep ruining every town close to Melbourne? It doesn’t all have to be the same.”
People can view the draft Broadford Structure Plan by visiting engagingmitchellshire.com/broadford3658/widgets/206250/documents.
An online version of the petition can be found at change.org/JeffreysLane.